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Pop Psychology: All good things come to an end

In the “Chuck” season finale, Sarah Walker (Yvonne Strahovski) and Chuck Bartowski (Zachary Levi) tie the knot, solidifying their long-developing relationship.

By Alex Goodman

May 22, 2011 11:24 p.m.

It’s funny how unprepared we always are for endings. Here I am, for example, not at all ready to write my last “Pop Psychology” column.

But endings are inevitable ““ we know, whenever we start something, at some point it’s going to stop. And in fact it’s that prospect of an ending, looming on the horizon, that gives a thing shape, that makes the intervening developments meaningful because they’re working toward something.

When we turn on a romantic comedy, we know the leads will end up together ““ that’s the whole point. When we turn on an action movie, we expect the good guys will come out victorious. The two hours in between are based on that anticipation, and then the lovers kiss and the villains die and the credits roll, and if you’re satisfied you’re also a little bit sad, because you don’t get to live in that world anymore.

Books keep the game going longer, as do television shows, but those don’t go on forever either. And in those longer forms you sometimes encounter the terrible problem of the premature ending ““ most commonly, when the main characters get together too early in the story. Then you’re left with no entropy, so either a wrench has to be thrown into the works, disrupting what you’d been waiting so long for, or the plot must putter along in stasis until it stops cold.

The point is, we need endings. We need one somewhere out in front of us to keep us moving toward it. We need to feel that brief euphoria when we reach it. And then we need another ending, somewhere farther ahead, and so on and so forth, forever.”¨Because the thing is, these endings aren’t real life. When the season finale of “Chuck” aired last week ““ and if you watch the show, you’ll know why I’m still in shock ““ it didn’t really mean anything.

Sure, I felt a twinge of despair when I acknowledged that there will be no new episodes for months. But that also means I can move on to something else: new summer shows, catching up on “Gossip Girl,” making sure I pass my classes.

So yes, my column is ending, and so is my time at this university. But think about graduation; never again will there be so clearly demarcated the completion of one stage of my life at the same time as the beginning of a new one.

One day, I and 4,000 other people will be UCLA students, and the next we won’t. We’ll be what you might call “adults,” or “real people” or “unemployed.” And we’ll run off into the distance toward that next ending, stumbling and falling and occasionally curling up into a fetal position and putting on a Disney movie.

As we carry on, though, we must never forget the past. Some time from now, probably after the series ends, I’ll get out my “Chuck” season one DVDs and start all over. I’ll read the “Harry Potter” books from start to finish. I’ll watch “When Harry Met Sally” again and again and again, and every time I’ll get goose bumps during that final scene.

But those things, like I said, aren’t real life ““ above all else, never forget that distinction, because entertainment is useless without people to share it with. Remember that, all you soon-to-be graduates: When you leave UCLA, bring the people you love with you.

I want to take a moment to thank everyone who has ever read this column ““ I’ve had a grand old time writing it, and you can bet I’ll soon start up something new. Thank you for indulging me these past three quarters, and for never pointing out how silly it is that my opinions about Lady Gaga and Rihanna should be printed in a newspaper.

I could go on for pages and pages, but it’s true: Sometimes we need endings. It’s time to move on now to the next thing, and I do hope you’ll join me.

If you have any lingering thoughts, feelings or questions, email Goodman at [email protected].

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